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AXA insurance profits leap 10% on asset sales

AFP

A photo taken on February 21, 2014 shows flags flying outside the Axa bank headquarters in BrusselsA photo taken on February 21, 2014 shows flags flying outside the Axa bank headquarters in Brussels

A photo taken on February 21, 2014 shows flags flying outside the Axa bank headquarters in BrusselsA photo taken on February 21, 2014 shows flags flying outside the Axa bank headquarters in Brussels

French insurance group AXA, number two in Europe after German giant Allianz, raised net profit by 10.0 percent last year with a boost from asset sales and reduced debt, it said on Friday.

The price of shares in the group initially fell, as the result missed targets slightly, but by late afternoon it was up by 0.08 percent to 19.57 euros.

Net profit totalled 4.5 billion euros ($6.17 billion) but even this was less than expected by analysts who had tabled for about 4.7 billion euros.

Operating profit surged by 14.0 percent to 4.7 billion euros, and this also fell short of expectations.

If changes in currency values were excluded, operating profit jumped by 18.0 percent.

This performance was achieved on a 1.0-percent rise in sales to 91.2 billion euros.

The results showed that all parts of the business did well, although the company got badly caught out on the wrong side of instruments bought to protect against changes in interest rates and currency values.

The company said that capital gains from the sale of a portfolio of a life-assurance subsidiary in the United States and of its majority interest in Axa Private Equity, now Ardian, had been crimped by accounting factors.

One of these was a negative effect of interest-rate and currency hedge instruments which amounted to about 300 million euros.

AXA said that it had achieved a return on shareholders' equity of 14.8 percent, a rise of 1.8 percentage points from the 2012 level and at the top end of the 13.0-15.0-percent range in its strategic plan to 2015.

The operating results is above the strategic target under the "Ambition Axa" plan for an increase of 5.0-10.0 percent per year.

The group reduced its ratio of debt to funds to 24.0 percent, better than its initial target for 2015 of 25.0 percent and said it was now targeting 23.0-25.0 percent.

The group also made big strides in its effort to reduce costs by 1.7 billion euros by 2015, reporting gains of 1.2 billion euros of which 400 million were booked last year.

The board recommended raising the dividend payout to shareholders by 13.0 percent to 0.81 euros per share.

Date created : 2014-02-21